Imagine someone created a fully illustrated history of armed conflict, then formatted it like a roleplaying book and you'd have some idea what the Star Wars: Essential Guide to Warfare is about.
Written by Jason Fry and Paul Urquhart, this 245 page tome covers everything in the Star Wars universe ranging from Before the Republic all the way to the New Jedi Order and beyond. It has historian accounts of most of the major conflicts in the history of the galaxy, bios of major leaders on all sides of the conflicts, and it waxes philosophical about who should have done what differently here and there that makes you feel like it was written by an actual historian.
What's that? It was? Urquhart is a pseudonym for an actual, anonymous medieval historian? That makes a lot sense.
There are two things that, I think, stand out about this book. The first is the illustrations. A crack team of artists clearly having fun in the Star Wars sandbox provided beautiful artwork for pretty much every page. It's gorgeous and glossy and I could easily accidentally spend an hour just flipping through it, staring at pictures, and reading the accompanying material. In fact, that's actually what I did do as soon as the book was handed to me.
The other thing I absolutely love is that characters, situations, and conflicts from The Clone Wars have made their way into this book with the same importance, reverence, and treatment as any other conflict in the galaxy. The movies, books, and comics are always all well-represented in books like this, but it felt like this was the first time The Clone Wars has really gotten its due. And it was great to see new and different artists take on characters from the show. It's been oddly compartmentalized, only seeing these new characters in the animation and art style of the show, so it was refreshing to see paintings of guys like Admiral Trench.
The writing in the book was very good, too.
My biggest complaint about this book is that it feels like it should have been published by West End Games, just so it could have had all of the RPG material in the back of the book. I'm not an avid roleplayer (in fact, I haven't in many, many years), but I still love flipping through RPG sourcebooks, both for inspiration and information. Giving characters stat sheets allows you to compare them on a much more objective scale than the words of a history wonk.
All in all, I'd say that's a pretty minor complaint.
The book came out in the last couple of weeks and you can pick it up on Amazon for less than $20. It's worth it.